Redford's Reign Begins
By: David Coll
The outcome of the recent provincial election is, on balance, a good thing for the patch and Albertans in general
This spring’s election in Alberta was surely the most divisive in the province’s relatively short history. For the first time in 40 years, there appeared to be a serious challenge to the ruling party, in this case the Tory dynasty built by the venerable Peter Lougheed.
Heading into the election’s final weekend, pollsters were predicting the unthinkable – not only would the fledgling Wildrose party usurp power, they were going to enjoy majority rule! But all of the pollsters’ prognostications proved to be embarrassingly off the mark – not one of them predicted the outcome of a PC/Alison Redford majority and only one even predicted her party to win, period.
I predicted a Tory minority all along, believing that if there was to be a change in Alberta it wouldn’t happen overnight. And, I reasoned, the sea-change angry voters were looking for after the disastrous Stelmach era had already occurred last October with Redford’s red Tories sweeping the rug out from under Gary Mar.
I’m no Pierre Poutine, but one clear outcome of this election – and the preceding federal Robocall scandal – has to be a ground-zero rethink of how polls are conducted and if they really have any value at all in an age of instant information, media overload and an increasingly fickle electorate. At the very least, stop the phone calls – they’re a waste of everyone’s time and money.
Now that I’ve gotten that rant off my chest, I should actually get to the point of this article, which is to say that the outcome of this election is, on balance, probably a good thing for the oil patch and Albertans in general.
I say this because for the first time in my adult lifetime there is a potentially strong opposition government. For all of its shortcomings, which i would chalk up to inexperience and rather shocking naiveté, I think the Wildrose will play a crucial role in keeping the Redford team on its toes.
Given the controversy generated by some comments from their candidates during and after the election (to paraphrase: Caucasians know best, homosexuals will drown in an eternal lake of hellfire, rural voters have more common sense than their urban brethren) it would have been a truly scary proposition had the Wildrose won a majority or even a minority. no matter if the comments were misconstrued, the poor judgment in putting them out there – and Smith’s milquetoast response – were clear indications this group wasn’t ready to govern.
However, in an opposition role, the Wildrose has an opportunity to shine. The party has time to earn its political stripes, build a stronger platform and consolidate support. They must hope for a major faux pas or two from the PCs, but with Redford’s no non-sense, centrist approach they’re unlikely to be handed another plum like the no-Meet committee scandal. Then again, considering as just one example the shameful way Mar’s been treated since losing the leadership nomination, who’s to say what other skeletons might be lurking in the PC closet?
In the wake of all this jockeying, pontificating and proselytizing, anger, distrust and suspicion remain palpable. For Redford and the Tories, thrown a big scare during the election, that’s a good thing to remember early in their term, as most of the unpopular things governments do tend to come at the beginning of a premier’s term. Case in point: the 2007 royalty review, a wound that still burns.
The patch can only hope there’s nothing similar coming of a punitive nature in the years ahead, although Redford’s notion of a national energy strategy seems to enjoy support in the towers (or at least nobody wants to admit they’re opposed), I’d advise keeping an eagle eye on how it evolves.
I’ll certainly be paying attention: Danielle smith is the perfect foil to Redford – journalist versus constitutional lawyer; you gotta like that matchup if for nothing else than the sheer entertainment value.